Updated Federal Review is Critical to Robust Energy Infrastructure
Posted April 29, 2019
The administration is right: Robust U.S. supplies of natural gas and oil offer great economic opportunity for this nation – requiring robust infrastructure to deliver energy to Americans in all parts of the country.
That’s why the president issued an executive order earlier this month to spur the federal government into greater efficiency in its permitting processes and to reduce regulatory uncertainties that increase project costs and discourage new infrastructure investment. “It is the policy of the United States to promote private investment in the Nation’s energy infrastructure …” is significant coming from the White House.
Our industry looks forward to progress spurred by the order in addressing federal bureaucratic issues, including reports on how various regulations may be updated to work in concert with that White House statement – especially a review ordered by the president to see “whether, and to what extent, State, local, tribal, or territorial actions” have played a role in the inability to transport sufficient quantities of natural gas and other domestic energy to New England.
It’s crucial for Americans to understand that more efficient federal and state permitting for infrastructure projects includes continued regulatory oversight and thorough environmental review by government agencies. Cutting “red tape” will help solve the problem of “energy disparity” in America by providing energy to currently under-served regions, without compromising environmental protection or public safety.
Updating the federal review and permitting process is key for safe and responsible pipeline construction and operation. Here’s a new video, featuring these themes with construction of Plains All American Pipeline’s Cactus II line in Texas:
During a visit to the construction zone last fall, I saw technologies and a safety culture at work together to ensure that, as the video says, America’s pipelines are “safer than ever.”
The 500-mile pipeline is planned to transport oil from the Permian Basin to Corpus Christi, the kind of delivery system that’s imperative to serve one of the country’s biggest-producing regions. The construction operation was neighbor-friendly: A big map of the project route included zones highlighted in yellow where pipeline activities were restricted to 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. so that hunters could go out early in the morning and in the evening.
In the assembly yard, workers cut and welded sections of pipe. After the pipe was cut with a circular cutting tool, the edge was buffed to prepare it for welding, throwing off a shower of sparks. Once the welds were completed, the joints were X-rayed. When large sections of pipe were welded together on the route itself, they were X-rayed again to ensure a quality weld and pipe construction.
At the staging yard, 75-foot sections of pipe, stacked horizontally, waited to be delivered to assembly points on the route, which covers rocky terrain dotted by scrub brush and mesquite trees – nothing taller than a telephone pole. A “sucker hoe,” a treaded tractor with a boom arm and a suction device, lifted the 8,000-pound section of pipe from the pile and placed it carefully on a truck. The pipe’s green coating protects it from corrosion and is part of a multi-layered approach to quality pipeline construction and overall safety.
In one section of the route, dozens of sections of pipe sat on wooden cross-ties, to be assembled and welded by an auto-welder inside a tented, portable workspace that kept out the wind, dust and other debris (yes, that’s a longhorn checking out the pipe in the photo below).
It was an amazing process to see up close – where attention to safety and precise operations, supported by technology, was present each step of the way.
It’s a process in which Americans can have confidence. The professional work by Plains All American Pipeline and other U.S. pipeline companies has allowed industry’s pipeline sector achieve a remarkable record of safely delivering liquid products 99.999 percent of the time, with the focus on reaching the goal of zero incidents.
This is the context for a new era of energy infrastructure construction. America has the natural gas and oil reserves and the technology to safely tap them. With new approaches by the federal government in executing its role, more Americans will have access to the benefits of the U.S. energy revolution.
About The Author
Mark Green joined API after a career in newspaper journalism, including 16 years as national editorial writer for The Oklahoman in the paper’s Washington bureau. Previously, Mark was a reporter, copy editor and sports editor at an assortment of newspapers. He earned his journalism degree from the University of Oklahoma and master’s in journalism and public affairs from American University. He and his wife Pamela have two grown children and five grandchildren.
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